Dluxe's World

Monday, March 13

The sound system as grace...

Ingrid @ Slice of Laodicea is nothing if not opinionated. If you've never checked out their blog, I would urge you to read it occasionally (it's one of my daily pitstops).

In Ingrid's post this morning, she points out the continuing boom in the 'worship arts' business and it's effect on our churches. She makes the following comment:
I, for one, refuse out of hand to tithe to a church for television equipment, special effects lighting for the "stage", million dollar sound systems, etc. etc. etc. ... What is not being funded while churches are being built and equipped to resemble Radio City Music Hall? Why do we need technology to worship the Lord Jesus Christ? What does it say about the size and purpose of our churches that this kind of technology is being purchased? ... Church has to be an exciting sensual experience that has to match up with whatever the media is offering. Broadway style shows? Yes. Rockette style dancers? Yes. Box offices? Yes. House bands? Yes. The Holy Spirit? No.

I've generally agreed with Ingrid's posts... And I don't really disagree with the spirit behind this one. I think the church-at-large has gotten bitten by consumerism and slick marketing. We've become more concerned with filling the pews that with worshipping (and preaching) Christ to the communities in which we live. As our pastor pointed out in a sermon yesterday, worship has become a noun - something that we observe and take in - versus a verb that we must do and participate in.

So, I completely agree that media, music, and pizazz are all things that can become idols in and of themselves. Still... Is the problem really with those tools themselves? Ok, I'll grant you that 'pizazz' is a problem (not that it's really a tool anyway). We shouldn't be about a show just for a show's sake.

Our church is blessed to be fairly large for our area. Because of our size, some technological intervention is needed. There are very nice people with hair far grey-er than mine who sit near the back. If they're going to hear the pastor preach in our (acoustically horrendous) sanctuary, they're going to need help. There are people who are serving the church - mainly in our nursery - who miss a service here and there. Isn't it a nice thing to be able to offer them a recording of the sermon?

Now, I'm sure that Ingrid wouldn't dispute these costs. But it points out that the issue is the purpose and not the technology. Is the band playing to rightly glorify God and help us enter into worship, or are we playing to be rock stars and fill the seats? Is the gospel being clearly taught and proclaimed, or are we watering down truth to tickle ears and fill seats? Are we putting lights and screens and speakers to help people engage in the corporate worship of our Lord or are we 'just showing off'?

While our church is not without issues (no church is), I'm consistently thankful that our growth and mission has been solidly grounded in the truth of the Cross. In Sunday School yesterday (ABF, for your VBCers here) I made the point that there is truth that cannot be compromised. If the church had to close its doors because no one would listen, we'd better close the doors rather than compromise. Thankfully, I believe we would go down swinging for the right things.

Let's just make sure that we're putting the first things first. If God is blessing a doctrinally-solid, Bible-believing, Cross-centered church with growth, shouldn't we rejoice rather than grumble? At last check, the church that John Piper pastors has (spread among three 'campuses') around 1700 members and rising... Who knows how many people attend above that number. Are we really saying that a church that's shining as a beacon in a dark place needs to stop doing reasonable things to confront more people with the gospel?

I'm not a megachurch person... As our church grows into a new facility, I hope the next step in our growth is to start planting churches rather than continuing to grow and grow and grow... That said, so long as Christ is lifted up first and foremost I don't think we need to run away from success. It's grace! It's wonderful stuff which we've been entrusted to steward well until Christ returns. We do need to be careful that the trappings of success don't try to climb up on the altar.

Ingrid mentions that this post dovetails with another discussing a blog on the rise in home churches (from ChristianityToday). It's an interesting read as well, and will probably draw some comments from me soon!


  • Hi,

    Coming from one who attends and serves in a technologically advanced church, and has experienced lacking those commodities, I have to say I agree with you here. While technology is not inherently evil, we must still be careful that we are serving God and not the technology in His house. I find that the lights, sound, powerpoint, etc, etc adds to the impact of worship. The world around us has grown accustomed to having these little pleasures. The Church should not hold back on using these same things to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Get a TV show, make DVDs, have the lights and sounds and things to invite the dying world into God's house, and possibly even God's family.

    By Blogger Purplechica, at 5:46 PM, March 14, 2006  

  • Thanks for the comment, Purple... I'd just want to emphasize a couple things:

    You said: I find that the lights, sound, powerpoint, etc, etc adds to the impact of worship.

    While I agree they can, I think that's often treading on dangerous ground. I can put a fantastic band with great music in front of a bunch of people and give them an emotional high. I'm not so sure that really helps people in a worship setting... Suddenly it's about how the lights, music, visuals, etc made me feel rather than being focused on who Christ is.

    You said: The world around us has grown accustomed to having these little pleasures.

    It's vitally important for us to recognize that this is walking the razor's edge. The world is also accustomed to being told that "we're all ok" and similar things. If were not careful, this same attitude of being inviting in some areas that aren't vital slips into areas that are.

    I've blogged previously about how some churches are systematically changing the truth and the Gospel in order to make it more 'comfortable' for a sinful world. That's bunk.

    While I think many of the forms are up open to us, we have to make sure that we're not experimenting/showboating to please men. Once that starts, it's a slippery slope down to pleasing men by altering the message...

    And if we don't have message right, we should just close our doors.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 9:21 PM, March 14, 2006  

  • Isn't "acoustically horrendous sanctuary" redundant? ;-)

    You're spot on regarding the issue that it's the purpose that's important. I recently took over as head of A/V for my (fairly small -- 200 on Sunday) church. The overall purpose that the pastor and asst pastor saw for this role was to make things as seamless as possible in all areas of A/V, so that folks weren't distracted from the worship of God.

    If our job is to make people think that there's not a job, we're probably on the right track. ;-)

    By Blogger Brendt, at 10:14 PM, April 03, 2006  

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